Introduction

The perks of pen pals, or my personal quest to keep Canada Post in business

The perks of pen pals, or my personal quest to keep Canada Post in business

Dear lovely Life at U of T readers,

I mentioned in previous posts that I studied abroad a couple times during my undergraduate degree (you can read about my summer in Berlin here). During those terms, I always made sure to pick up lots of new postcards for my ever growing collection, and to send lots of letters and postcards home to friends and family.

I’ve always loved writing letters. When I was young, I would write plane letters and train letters for my friends who were going away – even if it was just for the weekend. I’m an avid diary keeper, and I love how letters let me share that personal, journal entry sort of writing with the people in my life.

A letter I received from France with beautiful pressed flowers within.
A letter I received from France with beautiful pressed flowers within.

When I studied abroad, I made my best efforts to pick up some new pen pals to add to my address book. I write to friends in Ottawa, friends who went to universities elsewhere in Canada and the U.S., friends from far away, and friends from home traveling far away.

I also write to friends in Toronto! That may seem silly – I could see them any time, but letters are so much more personal. I find that I learn a lot more about a person from a letter than I do from most conversations.

Some magnificent mail from our nation's capital.
Some magnificent mail from our nation’s capital.

People are often intimidated about what they should write in a letter. Here’s what I always say: there are no rules to letter writing! Especially if you are local Toronto pen pals, or people that talk often to one another over text or facebook or otherwise, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to provide a thorough update on What You’ve Been Up To Lately. Instead, just write whatever feels right – tell a story about something that happened to you, or a dream you had, or write about whatever’s on your mind. Draw something and only write one or two lines. Make a list. Describe what you see.

I realize I’ve gone completely high school creative writing teacher on you – explore the space of the paper! Let yourself go! Be free with your words! – but that’s because there are no limits when it comes to letter writing! Unless, of course, you have a limited postage fund.

A letter from my pal in Halifax that was truly packed with treasures.
A letter from my pal in Halifax that was truly packed with treasures.

I also like to enclose little gifts in my letters – whether it’s a receipt with a little note on it or a pin or a small photo.

So, if you’re looking to reconnect with old friends, or connect with new ones, consider asking them to be pen pals! Most people, in my experience, will be really excited to try something new – and they will also likely send really excited selfies when their real life physical letter arrives. Getting a letter is an incredible novelty in 2015 – it’s one of the cheapest ways to make someone’s day!

Yours sincerely,
Danielle.

Do you have pen pals? Have other ideas for staying in touch with friends from abroad? Share them in the comments below or on twitter at @lifeatuoft.

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